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Will You Take Me As I Am: Joni Mitchell's Blue Period

Will You Take Me As I Am: Joni Mitchell's Blue Period [Kindle Edition]

Michelle Mercer
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

Joni Mitchell is one of the most celebrated artists of the last half century, and her landmark 1971 album, Blue, is one of her most beloved and revered works. Generations of people have come of age listening to the album, inspired by the way it clarified their own difficult emotions. Critics and musicians admire the idiosyncratic virtuosity of its compositions. Will You Take Me As I Am -- the first book about Joni Mitchell to include original interviews with her -- looks at Blue to explore the development of an extraordinary artist, the history of songwriting, and much more.

In extensive conversations with Mitchell, Michelle Mercer heard firsthand about Joni's internal and external journeys as she composed the largely autobiographical albums of what Mercer calls her Blue Period, which lasted through the mid-1970s. Incorporating biography, memoir, reportage, criticism, and interviews into an illuminating narrative, Mercer moves beyond the "making of an album" genre to arrive at a new form of music writing.

In 1970, Mitchell was living with Graham Nash in Laurel Canyon and had made a name for herself as a so-called folk singer notable for her soaring voice and skillful compositions. Soon, though, feeling hemmed in, she fled to the hippie cave community of Matala, Greece. Here and on further travels, her compositions were freshly inspired by the lands and people she encountered as well as by her own radically changing interior landscape. After returning home to record Blue, Mitchell retreated to British Columbia, eventually reemerging as the leader of a successful jazz-rock group and turning outward in her songwriting toward social commentary. Finally, a stint with Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue and a pivotal meeting with the Tibetan lama ChÖgyam Trungpa prompted Mitchell's return to personal songwriting, which resulted in her 1976 masterpiece album, Hejira.

Mercer interlaces this fascinating account of Mitchell's Blue Period with meditations on topics related to her work, including the impact of landscape on music, the value of autobiographical songwriting for artist and listener, and the literary history of confessionalism. Mercer also provides rich analyses of Mitchell's creative achievements: her innovative manner of marrying lyrics to melody; her inventive, highly expressive chords that achieve her signature blend of wonder and melancholy; how she pioneered personal songwriting and, along with Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, brought a new literacy to the popular song. Fans will appreciate the previously unpublished photos and a coda of Mitchell's unedited commentary on the places, books, music, pastimes, and philosophies she holds dear.

This utterly original book offers a unique portrait of a great musician and her remarkable work, as well as new perspectives on the art of songwriting itself.

About the Author

Michelle Mercer, a regular contributor to National Public Radio in the US, is the author of the critically aclaimed biography Footprints: The Life and Work of Wayne Shorter (J P Tarcher). Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Village Voice, Down Beat, and numerous other publications. She lives in Colorado in the US. Visit

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 511 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (7 April 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #355,161 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent insight into an unparalleled artist 26 Nov 2010
By Steve Keen TOP 1000 REVIEWER
From a time not too long ago when it seemed almost impossible to get a decent book about Joni Mitchell, the bookshops are now seemingly overflowing with them. It's difficult to envisage anyone bettering Lloyd Whitesell's The Music Of Joni Mitchell, but in Will You Take Me As I Am Michelle Mercer at least gets close to the lady herself, and the book benefits from being more of an insider's account of a vital period in Mitchell's career.

Mercer begins with a test for prospective boyfriends. Are they able to articulate their appreciation for Blue in the way she wants them to? I'd have failed. For me, Mitchell had an air of the exotic, she told interesting stories, and some of the feelings and situations were ones I could identify with. I only became aware of the fancy chord changes and the finely crafted poetry much later. And as for the comparison with Debussy. At 15, at 25 even, I wouldn't have known who Debussy was. So, Michelle, don't expect my call anytime soon. I took the songs as they are.

Never mind, the book itself is a worthwhile read, exploring literary and philosophical areas only grazed, if that, by Whitesell. She covers St Augustine and the creation of Christian doctrine, TS Eliot and Symbolist poetry, and Dylan's and Lowell's rejection of Eliot's poetic aesthetic. There's Woody Guthrie and the folk tradition, Rousseau, the Enlightenment and modern autobiography, and a discussion of Mitchell in the context of Nietzsche's "new breed of poet", writing "in their own blood".

There's much debate as to the extent to which the songs within the "Blue Period", between Blue itself and Hejira, are autobiographical.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tangled Up In Blue 19 May 2009
This is the best attempt at a biography on the elusive and peerless Mitchell. Charting the 'BLUE PERIOD' is detailed and insightful, particularly since Mitchell herself is involved to a degree. From Blue through to Hejira, the book offers a fresh look at a woman who learned to believe in her gift and follow it to a level that trascended the narrow categories she was placed within - folk, rock, jazz, WOMAN! The only woman to match and better the men who were and still are regarded as gods. None of them come close musically or lyrically during this period ( especially Hejira) and it's nice to finally hear Bob and Neil and Leonard, acknowledging it. When the dust settles...........
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
What a lovely well researched book. It is a biography that reflects on her influences, piers who often became her lovers, contemporary music, poetry, construction and content. Joni leaves no stone unturned in her autobiographical songs exposing her innermost feelings and experiences, hence the title `Will you take me as I am'.

You learn a great deal about Joni and the detail behind the words of her songs, often from interviews with the author. Michelle Mercer takes you on a fascinating journey through her work that will probably open up a new understanding about yourself.

You may think that you understand the words of the songs but shortly after starting the book you will begin to realise that there is so much more. You will also start to realise that there is a lot of yourself in the songs and that if you start to realise this that Joni will be pleased, as that is one of her main aims.

Joni has always wanted to be recognised as an artist and has a fantastic collection of paintings to her name. As a muscian she never learnt to read music, study it's theory or read many books (up until she met Leonard Cohen) and yet she produced such great songs of depth and complexity. Joni was handicapped by polio and wouldn't have been able to learn to play a guitar in the traditional way. Nevertheless she overcame all these obstacles and found her own unique way to play the guitar and construct poetry to song that didn't fit in with convention. She brought her poetry/stories alive through music in a magical way.

The result was something very special and the author beautifully captures it. Whilst the Blue LP features strongly in the book the author cleverly extends the study to a few years either side so that it encapsulates what she calls Joni Mitchell's Blue Period.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.6 out of 5 stars  41 reviews
41 of 53 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Read this if you want to know more about Michelle Mercer 16 Jan 2010
By Diana K. Jackson - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Michelle Mercer likes to write about herself nearly as much as the subject of her book. Though she claims to be uninterested in gossip..."Celebrity gossip is not very compelling to me...Basically, I'm more interested in how songwriters make thier work personal than in what they get personal about", she indeed dishes throughout the book and speculates on Mitchell's personal matters. Mercer tries very hard to describe the special relationship she claims to have with Mitchell, and brags about an incident during a dinner with Mitchell and others where Mitchell called one of Mercer's comments "ignorant." "Everyone at the table froze over their salads. The Great Goddess's ire had been raised. But I wasn't going to be cowed -..."

The final offense in this book supposedly about Mitchell is when Mercer lashes out in an unnaturally vicious way about Dan Fogleberg. After reading that part of the book two times, I am still unable to determine why she included her rant in the book. Shameless, really, and completely irrelevant.

Do yourself a favor and re-listen to Mitchell's music. No reason to learn more about a pompous, self-serving Mercer through this painful book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive. 8 Mar 2013
By Adamnelli - Published on
Factual, analytical and interpretive. Joni Mitachell's "Blue period" of the '70's is covered in depth, from Blue to Hejira. Revealing and enlightening. Achieves a very real sense of what went into her poetry and music juxtaposed with her life as she lives it. She has reached millions, I amongst them, who believe she expressed our lives as well as her own. As a member of her peer group during the period she writes about, I am privileged to identify with her.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revealing and unpretentious 1 Dec 2013
By Brian R. Coleman - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
I have to admit, I have never been a follower of Joni Mitchell, but I have friends who worship her, and as a music person I felt like I should know more. This book seemed like a good enough place to start, considering that even a neophyte like myself knows that most people consider "Blue" to be her best album, which is the heart of "Will You Take Me As I Am."

I think Michelle Mercer's approach to the book is a solid one - there is clear respect for her subject, but she is also objective in her approach to discussing Joni's early life and how it shaped her work in the '70s. There are some "fan-girl" glimmers in how she discusses her subject, but those are few and far-between. I think that Mercer, importantly, isn't afraid to talk about the more prickly sides of Joni's personality, to give a full picture. She also talks to - seemingly - just about all of those closest with Joni, and to Joni herself. These insights are what sell the book if you ask me - getting real insight into Joni's unique life and approach to making music. The last thing I would want to read is a flowery, post-grad rambling with no first-hand sources.

It's a read that is far from dense and intimidating, but still chock full of substance. And I can definitely say that I know a lot more about Joni than I did going in. Mission accomplished.

Recommended for sure!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing and Incisive 21 Nov 2013
By John Abel - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
As somebody who has loved Joni Mitchell’s music for a long time, I was happy to discover Michelle Mercer’s refreshing book “Will You Take Me As I Am – Joni Mitchell’s Blue Period”. Mercer interweaves Mitchell’s well-known bio and past revelations with new interviews and music philosophy. Her encounters and candid conversations gave me insight into Mitchell as she was then and as she is now. The book inspired me to listen to Mitchell’s music again and to seek out her new music and artwork. Michelle Mercer’s “Will You Take Me As I Am?” depicts the years between 1971 and 1976, the “Blue Period” - and Joni Mitchell- from a contemporary perspective. It is a fascinating book, I highly recommend it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Will Take You As You Are 30 Jun 2013
By C. CRADDOCK - Published on
I realize that Joni Mitchell is talented but confess that I am not a big fan. Still, a lot of people that I respect and admire have a lot of respect for her, and I found myself intrigued by this book. Once I got started I couldn't put it down. I really enjoyed Michelle Mercer's writing, and was impressed that her other book was about Wayne Shorter. Wayne was a member of Miles Davis' group and Weather Report, and is a very talented composer and musician. If he vouches for Mitchell's authenticity, that is good enough for me.

Though the book focused on Joni Mitchell, there were a few places where Michelle Mercer turned the spotlight on herself. First she confessed that she would test potential boyfriends by their reaction to Joni's Blue album, and the other was where she told a story about camping with her boyfriend and his father who would set up his tent and then kick back and listen to Dan Fogelberg on his boombox. She felt that Free Jazz was the appropriate music to contemplate nature's tranquility, and would storm off on an angry hike. I would have failed the Joni Blue litmus test miserably, but I might also object to Fogelberg as idyllic background music, though John Denver would be more likely to set me off on a rampage than Fogelberg. Free Jazz would not be my choice for a replacement, as I was more of a Jazz Purist, who didn't much care for either Free Jazz or Smooth Jazz.  

But I digress. WYTMAIA is not a biography of Joni Mitchell, though there is plenty of biographical materiel used to illustrate various points. Rather, it is a series of essays organized around Joni Mitchell's music and her approach to writing. There are a lot of quotes from various interviews of Joni Mitchell and those who have known her, the bulk of them being interviews of Joni Mitchell by the author, Michelle Mercer. 

What is astonishing about WYTMAIA is the way the author delves so deeply into the topics--for instance on the topic of confessional writing she goes all the way back to St. Augustine and Jean-Jacques Rousseau--but always brings it back to Joni Mitchell and her music. No matter how far afield she seems to go to make a point, it always does pertain to the topic. St. Augustine for instance was not only one of the first to practice confessional writing, he was also the topic of a song by Bob Dylan, one of Joni's main influences as a song writer, and Miss Mitchell herself had some pretty strong opinions of the Saint. She didn't like him.

Michelle Mercer has made a very good case for Joni Mitchell's music being worthy of my attention. I am anxious to listen to more of it, and would also like to read more of Michelle's writing. I am curious to hear what she has to say about Wayne Shorter in her previous book aptly titled Footprints. All in all, I was very impressed with Michelle Mercer's prose style, and enjoyed reading this book. I will gladly take both Mitchell and Michelle as they are.
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